The snow gave way quickly and just as quickly came the green. The greenhouse went up just in time; the plants, some of which I thought must have died, buried under several feet of snow for months, poking their green sprouts out of the yet still cold earth. This is no miracle; it is Spring.
The frogs in the back pond reappeared after a long hiatus, and frog eggs line the shallow pools in the back “roads” on the property. I’ve seen moose tracks and more deer and turkey tracks than I care to count. The fox is about and I hear the hawk’s screech almost everyday. The garden is waking up and the plants stir in their pots anxious to get in the dirt.
As always Spring brings anxiety: some plants got burnt up in the newly built greenhouse (my bad). But, most are fine and I kick myself for not putting spinach in a month ago. Every Spring I forget what I remember the previous year. Perhaps this is part of Spring too.
Small buds appear over night on the Birch, the Maple, the Oak and the Cedar and Spruce trees seem even greener than normal. The fireplaces are cold and everyone is outside. The wind blows the glorious warmth around and the leaves, freed from the snowy prison, take flight.
We all feel a bit more free in the Spring. Perhaps Spring is when happiness gets a chance to shine, just for a little, to fly around with the leaves and rid itself of the heavy weight of winter worries. A new start for an old, old cycle.
Every spring I put small seeds into small containers filled with dirt. Every spring some of those small seeds “miraculously” sprout into small plants; all reaching for something bigger. This year I am trying an array of plants; some of which are new, and some of which I have been saving from previous plants in previous years. It is this saving of seeds that is truly the cornerstone of growing food.
The Dester tomato seeds from one of last year’s tomatoes were the first to sprout, is the biggest and all of the six seeds from the fruit has now come up, and continues to grow at a truly admirable rate. The newest of the seeds seem shy, poking their small leaves from the soil slowly. The garden awaits and the seeds are willing.
I have started all the seeds in my hothouse. This year I built some homemade warming tables from a few pallets I got from a local hardware store. Covered in black plastic and sat on buckets, the heater placed under the tables provides the needed heat and the green netting draped over the large glass covers provides the needed cool. A balance, which is in the end: life itself.
I water from the fifty-gallon drum that I collect water in. The water is green, dirty and filled with time and patience. It is nature and somehow I must believe that there is balance in the liquid muck. The system has worked so far; the microcosm of life beginning and I look in upon it on a daily basis thinking that I am in control, but realizing that I am only a caretaker.
This year holds surprises that I have yet to discover. A new irrigation system to put in and try; additional beds and paths, new plants mean new beginnings and failures that mean new endings. There is a cycle here that is reminder of the greater cyclical nature that we are all a part of. To lose perspective of this is to lose track of the truth.
I am not the first to say this, but gardening is truth. I am not the first to realize this, but we do not control nor do we own; we are custodians and we loan a bit of time to find out what we can do and what we cannot do. This knowledge comes one plant at a time; one day a year when we notice the slightest bulge in the soil and begin making our plans.
I woke up this morning and enjoyed my morning coffee as I do every morning. It was early and the dew was still on the plants. The bees were not very busy yet; it was silent which is why I like early mornings. I took my usual garden walk, coffee in hand, and I noticed a few of my tomato plants had yellowing leaves on the bottom. All at once my morning was no longer peaceful. I wondered about that.
My garden is not doing so well this year (I think), and that worries me as well. I’m not sure why? Is it because I want to be perceived as a good gardener or is it because I want to be a good gardener? Maybe it’s the soil, the plants? My father-in-law chuckled at my worries. He’s been a farmer for some sixty years. His only advice: “it happens sometimes.”
That was not good enough for me. I knew better; better than a man who had spent his life growing things! That’s the thing with nature: it does not care what we want or why we want it. It simply is. I understand this even when I take my morning walk with my coffee: it only seems to me as if nature is pleasing. But nature knows best.
I don’t understand how my father-in-law is so nonchalant about something he has spent a lifetime doing. I tell him this and he brings back a conversation about nature that we had many years ago concerning the nature of, well, nature. He reminds me that nature does what nature does best: exist; this coming from a farmer of sixty years. After that, he adds, it’s pretty much guesswork and we don’t have much say so in the matter.
I don’t know why, but I can’t accept that explanation. It is not because it is not an answer, but because there are reasons for everything, even if we do not know what those reasons are. Also, I must admit, I expect a little more from a lifetime of experience in farming, which is what this man has. He seems to recognize my disappointment and chuckles again. I think he realizes that it is because of his experience and not in spite of it that he can laugh.